FCC Relaxes Regulations for In-Flight WiFi
Airlines will be able to test systems that meet FCC standards, establish that they do not interfere with aircraft systems and get FAA approval.The Federal Communications Commission is moving to ease restrictions on Internet use in commercial airlines as the agency attempts to enhance competition in the mobile telecommunications market and help speed the deployment of Internet services onboard aircraft. In addition to promoting the economic growth and job-creating impacts of ubiquitous broadband, the action also continues the FCC's efforts to update and streamline regulatory requirements across the agency. The latest report and order formalizes Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA)—earth stations on aircraft communicating with Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) geostationary-orbit (GSO) space stations. ESAA as a licensed application in the FSS and establishes a regulatory framework for processing applications while ensuring other radio service operations are protected from harmful interference. Installed on the exterior of the aircraft, the satellite antenna carries the signal to and from the aircraft, providing two-way, in-flight broadband services to passengers and flight crews. Two mobile applications in the FSS—Earth Stations on board Vessels (ESV) and Vehicle-Mounted Earth Stations (VMES)—provide satellite communications with vessels and land vehicles. ESAA is the third leg of mobile applications in the FSS. The satellite antenna will carry the signal to and from the aircraft, and mobile technologies such as WiFi will provide communications within the aircraft's hull.
The FCC move now means rather than having to license on-board systems on an ad hoc basis, airlines will be able to test systems that meet FCC standards, establish that they do not interfere with aircraft systems and get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval.